August 25, 2018

John McCain has died.

"John S. McCain, the proud naval aviator who climbed from depths of despair as a prisoner of war in Vietnam to pinnacles of power as a Republican congressman and senator from Arizona and a two-time contender for the presidency, died on Saturday at his home in Arizona. He was 81. According to a statement from his office, Mr. McCain died at 4:28 p.m. local time. He had suffered from a malignant brain tumor, called a glioblastoma, for which he had been treated periodically with radiation and chemotherapy since its discovery in 2017" (NYT).

At the Floodwater Café...


... wade in.

(And don't forget to do your Amazon shopping... through the Althouse Portal.)

One way to get rid of a problem: Stop defining it as a problem.

 Example: "Maybe Your Sleep Problem Isn’t a Problem" by Alex Williams (NYT). The only "sleep problem" discussed there is not being a "morning person." It expresses some out-and-proud night-owl pride:
Say what you will about night owls, but we are a tribe of mavericks. Our hall of fame — or infamy — includes rebels (Keith Richards, Hunter S. Thompson) and revolutionaries (Mao, Stalin), mad geniuses (James Joyce, Prince) and madmen (Charles Manson, Hitler). Even our conventional political heroes (Barack Obama, Winston Churchill) are remembered as genius outsiders.

This may not be a coincidence. The very essence of our chronotype makes us oddballs, prone to looking at life through a different lens. We are the weirdos who feel most alive skulking through the darkness, secure in the illusion that we own the world for at least a few precious hours every night while everyone else slumbers....
I like the idea of solving problems by figuring out how to say they're not problems at all but actually something good. Of course, a lot of lying and bullshit happens in that mode. But let's talk about good examples of figuring out how that's not a problem, that's a solution.

It's especially good for those of us who value efficiency over hard work. My example is the "problem" of not raking leaves. When I first moved into my house in 1986, I raked the leaves in the backyard and dragged them around to the front to be picked up by the city because I believed that's what you're supposed to do. Then I got balky about the work and left them in place, but felt guilty. Bad me! As the years passed, I developed the idea that whatever was happening out there was fine. Violets bloomed in the spring. Wildflowers. I could think of it as a miniature "prairie restoration" and who could contradict me? In 2009, Meade came along, and tending gardens was his metier. By 2013, I was blogging "Are you keeping your leaves and, if so, have you shifted into bullying your neighbors who still put their leaves out to the curb for pickup? We keep our leaves (and even take in some neighbors' leaves)..."

So I'm into thinking before taking action and changing anything. I realize there's a problem in thinking too much and never doing anything. And yet the more I think about that problem, the closer I get to seeing how you could understand it not to be a problem at all. I mean, please do handle your emergencies and keep up with things — like bill-paying — that will get worse if left to ferment. But as to all those other problems of yours: Test out the theory that they're not problems at all or that the solutions are worse than the problem.

I've thought of another example: the problem of failing to travel. Just like the pro-morning-person message Alex Williams felt he was hearing all over the place, there's a pro-travel message I hear everywhere. Of course, there's all the advertising and promotion from the travel industry and from government officials who'd like you to spend your money where they can tax it. And there are also all the people who ask you where you've traveled and tell you where they've traveled as if it's the meaning of life. If not traveling is a problem, the solution is to travel. Get on it. Plan trips. Pack. Disrupt your routine. Hemorrhage money. Etc. etc. But there is the alternative of thinking yourself into not seeing it as a problem at all. Like Alex Williams parading his night-owl pride, you can claim to be better than those other people, who, after all, deserve the lording over after all their cultural dominance.

Say what you will about nontravelers, but we are a tribe of mavericks. Our hall of fame — or infamy — includes rebels (???) and revolutionaries (???), mad geniuses (???) and madmen (???). Even our conventional political heroes (???) are remembered as genius outsiders.

I just need to fill in those blanks and this post will be done... and yet....

Are those "(???)"s a problem?

The thing about blogging is that nothing is ever a problem. There's nothing — no length, no completeness, no adherence to form, no sticking to the topic, no level of seriousness or proportion of substance to fun — nothing required at all. People ask me, why don't you write a book? Like blogging and not progressing to something more sustained and respectable is a problem... 

Google celebrates the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein.

I'm sure there are many articles out there, but I'll just highlight "Life With Leonard Bernstein/The composer's daughter talks frankly about her new memoir" (NPR)(which kind of goes along with our discussion yesterday of the new memoir by Steve Jobs's daughter):
You talk about how it was hard not to buy into the "Bernstein family mythos." But you also say, "I was, above all, obnoxious like my father." How was your father obnoxious?

He was exuberant, and he just sort of took over in spite of himself; he couldn't help himself. Plus, he was a know-it-all and he had answers for everything, and liked talking at great length and was bossy. So he was a big handful, and I think I wound up inheriting a few of those qualities.

Maybe this is a good time to talk about this made-up word — "elf's thread" — that slips through the book, almost like a curse.

My father's great anagram of "self-hatred," a brilliant one. Self-loathing is a feeling that so many of us have a lot of the time, and each person on this planet has their own little recipe for it, I'm sure. But my father suffered from it tremendously. He struggled with elf's thread, as all artists do.

My personal recipe was that I insisted on trying to be a musician; that just made me feel disgusted with myself. It's really the phenomenon of just having the sinking feeling that you're making a complete ass of yourself, and that was a feeling that would come over me repeatedly and it's what has subsided as I got older. Every now and then I can still have that stupid idiot, elf's thread feeling....
ADDED: I made a "Leonard Bernstein" tag and applied it retrospectively to the archive. There were 5 old posts, and 3 of them involved the great Tom Wolfe article, "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s." It begins with a Leonard Bernstein birthday, his 48th:
At 2 or 3 or 4 a.m., somewhere along in there, on August 25, 1966, his 48th birthday, in fact, Leonard Bernstein woke up in the dark in a state of wild alarm. That had happened before. It was one of the forms his insomnia took. So he did the usual. He got up and walked around a bit. He felt groggy. Suddenly he had a vision, an inspiration. He could see himself, Leonard Bernstein, the egregio maestro, walking out on stage in white tie and tails in front of a full orchestra. On one side of the conductor’s podium is a piano. On the other is a chair with a guitar leaning against it. He sits in the chair and picks up the guitar. A guitar! One of those half-witted instruments, like the accordion, that are made for the Learn-To-Play-in-Eight-Days E-Z-Diagram 110-IQ 14-year-olds of Levittown! But there’s a reason. He has an anti-war message to deliver to this great starched white-throated audience in the symphony hall. He announces to them: “I love.” Just that. The effect is mortifying. All at once a Negro rises up from out of the curve of the grand piano and starts saying things like, “The audience is curiously embarrassed.” Lenny tries to start again, plays some quick numbers on the piano, says, “I love. Amo, ergo sum.” The Negro rises again and says, “The audience thinks he ought to get up and walk out. The audience thinks, ‘I am ashamed even to nudge my neighbor.’ ” Finally, Lenny gets off a heartfelt anti-war speech and exits....

"TPUSA Members Quit in Protest of ‘Exploiting’ Mollie Tibbetts’ Death/Iowans in the right-wing campus org resigned..."

"... after accusing Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk of seeking to ‘exploit’ a student’s murder to suit an anti-immigrant ‘political agenda'" (The Daily Beast).
In a letter penned by executive board members of the university’s chapter of Turning Point USA—a pro-Trump non-profit organization for campus conservatives—the University of Iowa chapter said that following the discovery of rising sophomore Mollie Tibbetts’ body in a cornfield on Tuesday, the chapter’s president purportedly received a message from a Turning Point field director that “insisted” that Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk and communications director Candace Owens visit the University of Iowa to host an immigration-related event.

“We respectfully decline this invitation,” the board members wrote, adding that they found the idea of using Tibbetts’ death “to suit a political agenda” distasteful....

The board members later updated their statement, writing on Twitter that the offer to host the event came from “students not affiliated University of Iowa Turning Point USA.” Owens condemned the chapter online, accusing the chapter of lying about having been contacted by a field director and “exploitation” of Mollie Tippetts’ death. (She also misspelled Tibbetts’ name.)...
ADDED: I have been declining to write about Candace Owens, but having at long last created a tag for her, I noticed "Candace Owens, con artist" at Spectator USA. Excerpt:
Candace launched Social Autopsy in 2016, after dropping out of college, a brief stint of working at Vogue magazine (yes, with those awful globalists!), a gig as an assistant at a private equity firm, and a failed founding of an editorial website which carried such high-minded and moral articles as ‘I Think Affairs Are Romantic’ and ‘I’m So Sorry Ladies, But We Can NEVER Stop Faking the Orgasm.’ The warring tribes of left and right both vehemently opposed Social Autopsy at the start.
Because I think the fake orgasm could be a good analogy to fake news, I read the "I'm So Sorry Ladies" piece. Excerpt:
You could lay there politely...
Lie there politely...
.... and allow him to continue, perhaps secretly hoping that he’s the marathon-type—saving his best tricks for the final laps. And if he’s not then you can suppose he’ll grow tired eventually. Eventually—while you mentally go through your grocery list (I think I have another bag of pine nuts in the cabinet somewhere) and he continues to do his absolute best to get you there. You can bet he’ll be using the same fool-proof moves that drove the last girl to a fake orgasm.

Yep that’s the your final alternative, and quite frankly, it’s just sad. Sad for you, sad for him, sad for the pine nuts even, which would really rather not be thought up into this pathetic situation at all.
Come on, it's a great analogy! Fake orgasm... fake news...

AND: Nick Gillespie in the NYT: "Republicans Are Exploiting the Murder of Mollie Tibbetts/Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. But the party doesn’t want to talk about that."
The killing of Ms. Tibbetts, who went missing on July 18 but whose body was found only this week, is an unspeakable tragedy. Her killer should be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Yet many conservatives who have long assailed the government as incompetent at best are now so blinded by xenophobic rage over her murder that they’ve turned into the thing they claim to despise: vociferous boosters of big government....

Mollie Tibbetts’s murder is profoundly disturbing. But it is a very rare event in a country where the violent crime and homicide rates are near 40-year lows. It does her memory and the country no good to greatly increase the power of the state as if there are no costs to such plans.

August 24, 2018

At the Friday Night Cafe...

... you can fry up your odds and ends of thought into juicy fritters. Delicious!


The NYT is doing an effective job at instilling revulsion for Trump. Quite aside from the specifics of whatever is being reported in any given article, the use of images, like this one today...

... is having a deep emotional impact. I'm really only able to speak of the impact on me, but I'm a person in the middle, maintaining my skepticism toward everything that's being said these days, and I am watching my own emotions, having them, but then also being objective about them. And I can tell you that when I saw that picture, I felt revulsion.

I immediately scrolled it off screen, then realized what I'd done, and I went back to look right at it and decided to write this post. That's a brilliant choice of photograph. And there's no arguing with it. Sometimes a photograph is unfair, such as when the subject is in the middle of blinking or talking and the frozen moment is, essentially, out of context. But that is a picture of how Trump really looks (I think!) and there's something so unwholesome about him.

The photograph appears in the article, "With a Vocabulary From ‘Goodfellas,’ Trump Evokes His Native New York." There are facts in the article, such as:
“I know all about flipping,” Mr. Trump told Fox News this week. “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”
Those are facts that should be reported, but much more is going on in that article — the photograph, of course, as mentioned, but also putting Trump's quote in the context of gangsterdom:
[T]he president was... evoking a bygone world — the outer boroughs of New York City, where he grew up — a place of leafy neighborhoods and working-class families, as well as its share of shady businessmen and mob-linked politicians. From an early age, Mr. Trump encountered these raffish types with their unscrupulous methods, unsavory connections and uncertain loyalties.
Mr. Trump is comfortable with the wiseguys-argot of that time and place....

Notice how with "raffish" and "argot" the NYT is displaying both its knowledge of and distance from the unwholesomeness of the.... outer boroughs. Oh! He's brought that disgusting stuff into our environs.

Environs! See? I am one of the NYT-reading people, feeling the revulsion, shrinking away, seeking higher ground.

"The Lyndon Johnson books by Caro, it’s our Harry Potter... If there were over-large ears and fake gallbladder scars..."

"... that we could wear instead of wizard hats while waiting in line to get the book, we would do it."

Said Conan O'Brien, quoted in "Conan O’Brien’s Unrequited Fanboy Love for Robert Caro" by John Koblin (NYT).
“One of the things that makes him one of the greatest biographers of all time is he’ll write about Lyndon Johnson, but when he encounters another character who’s interesting — Coke Stevenson — he will drop everything and go down deep, incredibly deep, into, ‘Who is this man really?’” he said. “He’ll find all this deep rich ore, which, once you know it, it’ll make the whole story that much more powerful. Whereas other people would dispense with those characters in a paragraph or two.”...

As he continues his quest [to get Caro to appear on his show], Mr. O’Brien said he will draw on what he has learned from Mr. Caro’s epic series. “Like Johnson, I have an incredible drive and a complicated relationship with my father,” he said. “I’ll stop at nothing.”
Great topic for a NYT article. Credit to the NYT. And I love the illustration. First class. The NYT at its best.

"If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that carbs are evil. This is probably the silliest of all the silly, pop-culture propaganda about diet and health."

"All plant foods are carbohydrate sources. Yeah, but: Carbs are evil. Everything from lentils to lollipops, pinto beans to jelly beans, tree nuts to doughnuts, is a carbohydrate source. Most plant foods are mostly carbohydrate. So if 'all carbs' are evil, then so are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Sure, but, I should still avoid carbs, right? Exactly the opposite is true. You cannot have a complete or healthful diet without carbohydrate sources. Why have I been led to believe that carbs are evil? Highly processed grains and added sugar are bad, not because they are carbohydrate, but because they’ve been robbed of nutrients, they raise insulin levels, and they’re often high in added fats, sodium, and weird ingredients. Carbs are not evil; junk food is evil."

From "The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right/Mark Bittman and doctor David L. Katz patiently answer pretty much every question we could think of about healthy food" (New York Magazine). Lots more at the link.

"Starting at age 11, they prayed for breast cancer. So distressing were the markers of their femininity that..."

"... Kris Irvin — who identifies as a man and uses the pronouns they, them and their — would have welcomed abnormal cell growth in their 'crappy and dysfunctional body.' Irvin knew of no other remedy for the physical and emotional agony that seemed to intertwine in their breasts, as they knew of no word to describe what they were experiencing. Since they were 3 years old, Irvin said, they were certain that they were male. 'But I didn’t know the word transgender until I was 28,' said Irvin, who is now 31 and a student at Brigham Young University, a school bound so tightly to the Mormon faith that enrollment rests on evaluation by religious leaders. That requirement could place Irvin’s education in jeopardy... 'One of the reasons God made me this way,' they wrote to their bishop, 'is to help church members and leaders see and get to know queer Mormons who are trying to stay faithful. But the church definitely does not make it easy for queer Mormons to remain Mormon'...."

From "‘He made me transgender on purpose’: Breast-removal surgery could boot Mormon student from Brigham Young" by Isaac Stanley-Becker (WaPo).

Asked about NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, Beto O'Rourke (Ted Cruz's challenger) launches into sustained grand oratory.

This video has gone viral, as NBC news says:
The video of his response, posted by the news site NowThis, has since garnered 11 million views and more than 300,000 shares on Facebook as of Thursday morning.
This video isn't just getting views, it's garnering views. So put that in your garner — a storehouse for corn — and keep it.

"In passage after passage of 'Small Fry,' [Steve] Jobs is vicious to his daughter and those around her."

"Now, in the days before the book is released, [Lisa] Brennan-Jobs is fearful that it will be received as a tell-all exposé, and not the more nuanced portrait of a family she intended. She worries that the reaction will be about a famous man’s legacy rather than a young woman’s story — that she will be erased again, this time in her own memoir.... Ms. Brennan-Jobs describes her father’s frequent use of money to confuse or frighten her... When her mother found a beautiful house and asked Mr. Jobs to buy it for her and Lisa, he agreed it was nice — but bought it for himself and moved in with his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs.... Early copies of the memoir have circulated among family and friends. [Laurene] Powell Jobs, her children and Mr. Jobs’s sister, Mona Simpson, gave this statement to The Times: 'Lisa is part of our family, so it was with sadness that we read her book, which differs dramatically from our memories of those times. The portrayal of Steve is not the husband and father we knew. Steve loved Lisa, and he regretted that he was not the father he should have been during her early childhood. It was a great comfort to Steve to have Lisa home with all of us during the last days of his life, and we are all grateful for the years we spent together as a family.'"

From "In ‘Small Fry,’ Steve Jobs Comes Across as a Jerk. His Daughter Forgives Him. Should We?/Lisa Brennan-Jobs has written a memoir about her famous father. The details are damning, but she doesn’t want them to be" (NYT).

A fact that's easy to get confused about: Did Lisa inherit nothing from her father? Apparently, he threatened that, but (according to the NYT), Lisa got "millions — the same amount as his other children."

I'm interested in that phrase, "she will be erased again." It's Lisa's own book. She's choosing to tell the story her way, but that can't stop the people she's writing about from talking back and presenting their version of the events they too lived through. Otherwise, they are "erased."

"Erased" has been a vogue word for many years. Keep an eye on it. It's the visual equivalent of "silenced." These are sleight-of-hand words that are often used to get other people to disappear/shut up. It's the opposite of the old free-speech notion that the remedy for speech you don't like is "more speech." Those who deploy "erased" (and "silenced") this way are saying in order for me to be properly heard and respected, other people need to refrain from contradicting or challenging me.

ALSO: I need to question that headline: "In ‘Small Fry,’ Steve Jobs Comes Across as a Jerk. His Daughter Forgives Him. Should We?/Lisa Brennan-Jobs has written a memoir about her famous father. The details are damning, but she doesn’t want them to be." Brennan-Jobs wrote what she wrote. Why shouldn't we infer what she wants from what she did, which is write a memoir with "damning details" that cause he father to come across as "a jerk"?

My rule of thumb is that people do what they want to do. If they say they want something else, I'm skeptical. So I'd never write, "The details are damning, but she doesn’t want them to be." It would have to be, The details are damning, but she says she doesn’t want us to see them that way.

To take my rule of thumb further, I would assume that she's talking to the NYT and using it to get out the message that the forthcoming book doesn't mean what she's afraid it will be understood to mean, and she's proclaiming forgiveness because she wants her book to be well-received, not undercut by her siblings and by Laurene Powell Jobs and Mona Simpson. Simpson (Jobs's sister) is a highly respected writer, and Brennan-Jobs's expression of fear that her memoir will be regarded as not "nuanced" but just  "a tell-all exposé" suggests literary aspirations that Simpson has the power to easily crush.

According to Wikipedia:
While a student at Harvard, [Brennan-Jobs] wrote for The Harvard Crimson. She graduated in 2000 and subsequently moved to Manhattan to work as a writer. She has written for The Southwest Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Harvard Advocate, Spiked, Vogue, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
That's 18 years since graduation, without much of a literary career (even with "millions" to spare her the grind of day jobs that make life hard for so many writers and with the leg-up she has always had because of her name). The book title is "Small Fry," but "small fry" are "Young or unimportant persons (collectively or in a body); a crowd of such persons" (the original metaphor being little fish appearing in large numbers) (OED).

August 23, 2018

At the Thursday Night Cafe...

... you can talk ‘til Friday.

Am I not all excited about the "constitutional crisis" — me, a former constitutional law professor?

Asked the lawyer friend I'd run into on the way back from my walk over to check the after-the-deluge water level of Lake Mendota.


What "constitutional crisis"? It seems to me the Constitution is in place, working as usual. There are some legal issues in play, but what's constitutional other than that some of the various actors in the drama have positions defined in the Constitution and obtained by normal constitutional procedures? It was assumed that I would excitedly spring into action because of this assumed "constitutional crisis," but my response was that I felt distanced from all the ugly divisions, though I thought some good might ultimately come from the crumbling of the 2 political parties. They were "getting what they deserve," I said darkly, adding, "We all are." That brought the conversation in for a landing, and as I walked on, I thought, What constitutional crisis? It isn't a constitutional crisis. It's emotional politics, a national nervous breakdown.

I like the way he starts with Alabama, like he's going to do the states in alphabetical order...

... and then has all kinds of random ways to connect one state to the next until he's got through all 50. I found the whole thing riveting, though I laughed out loud only once.

"Someone fell into artist Anish Kapoor’s bottomless pit sculpture/Or, an accounting of the most absurd art-world accidents in recent history."

My Google alert on "artist" turned up that Fast Company article:
On view as part of museum Fundação de Serralves‘s survey exhibition on Kapoor’s work, the eight-foot-deep hole is located inside a free-standing 20-foot concrete cube, which helps create the optical illusion that it’s either an infinite void or just a black circle painted on the ground, depending on your perspective. In reality, the work is actually just a pit covered in black paint.

It’s not clear exactly how the man fell in, given that the museum posted signs and had a security guard present....  Kapoor’s black holes have landed him at the heart of art world controversy before, particularly surrounding his exclusive rights to make art with Vantablack, a material developed by Surrey Nanosystems that absorbs 99.9% of light and is considered the blackest substance currently known. Descent Into Limbo is more than two decades old and far predates Kapoor’s use of Vantablack, which, coincidentally, is frequently likened to a black hole. 
It's really cool that a product was invented that creates the illusion of what the artist had previously constructed in 3-D and perhaps a bit disturbing — as I wrote about earlier this year — that the artist possesses a particular unique paint. But given the artist's connection to Vantablack, it's easy to see how the falling-into-the-hole man may have arrived at the idea that he should step "onto" the "hole." If he did not know that the artwork predated Kapoor's acquisition of Vantablack, he may have believed that he'd prove the hole was merely an illusion.

I've seen other bloggers linking to this story, but it came to me via my Google alert, which brings me all manner of junk every day and maybe 1 in 100 is, like this one, worth blogging. But it seems all those other bloggers see fit to put up a Warner Brothers cartoon that has an actually painted black circle that some of the time is a hole. In deference to all that has gone before, then, I give you this fancier iteration of the idea:

"A new Marquette Law School Poll of Wisconsin voters finds a tight race for governor following last week’s statewide primary elections."

"Among likely voters (that is, those who say they are certain to vote), incumbent Republican Scott Walker receives 46 percent, Democrat Tony Evers receives 46 percent... Among likely voters in the race for the Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat on the ballot in November, 49 percent support the incumbent, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, and 47 percent support Republican Leah Vukmir....  Evers is viewed favorably among 38 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 27 percent.... Vukmir has a 30 percent favorable rating and a 29 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters... Walker is viewed favorably among 49 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 47 percent... Baldwin has a 46 percent favorable rating and a 42 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters...."

Marquette Law School press release.

Tensions threatened when I asked for good news.

1. Metro reports: "Google has launched a brand new feature for its artificially intelligent Google Assistant that’s designed to cheer people up by filtering negative news. Simply ask your phone (or the Google Home speaker) to ‘tell me something good’ and you’ll be given a nice summary of positive stories about people solving real problems." So not just sentimental goo — kittens are cute, etc. — but real people solving real problems.

2. But I have an iPhone, so I ask Siri, "Give me some good news."


Well, that was awfully ungood. Tensions threatened!! But I see I didn't ask the precise question cited in the Metro article, "tell me something good." Maybe my use of the word "news" was too distracting.

3. Trying again, with Siri, avoiding the word "news," and we go careening into the world of relationships!


Immigration demagoguery.

Demagogue, OED:
1. In ancient times, a leader of the people; a popular leader or orator who espoused the cause of the people against any other party in the state....

2. In bad sense: A leader of a popular faction, or of the mob; a political agitator who appeals to the passions and prejudices of the mob in order to obtain power or further his own interests; an unprincipled or factious popular orator.

"Jahnke and about 60 others who became trapped in the area by the rising waters spent the night with about 20 Costco employees sitting on sofas and sleeping on mattresses in the second-floor break room."

"Some employees kept their feet out of the water by sitting on the checkout counters while taking a break from providing their overnight guests with an unlimited supply of popcorn, muffins, energy bars, bottled water and dry clothes. 'We just thought we’d have to sit it out a little bit,' said Jahnke, who lives near Capital Brewery in Middleton. 'They took a (crummy) situation and made it semi-enjoyable because they always remained calm, they were well organized and constantly were checking on people.' Jahnke isn’t even a Costco member. He had gone to Monk’s Bar & Grill with his girlfriend, Raechel Ramirez, but after leaving the restaurant their car stalled in standing water. They pushed the 2013 Dodge Dart into the Costco parking lot at about 8:30 p.m., moving it two more times to keep out of the path of the water. At about 10 p.m., employees from the store, which had closed around 6 p.m. after losing power, began asking people in the parking lot to come inside.... Water began coming in the front door of the store at around 10:30 p.m.... 'The smell was just rot. That’s the best way to describe it. A sewage and rot smell,' said Jahnke, 27. 'I went nose-blind. I grew accustomed to that smell... I never thought I would be in danger until Monday... I will most definitely get a membership.'"

From a Wisconsin State Journal article about the big rainstorm we had here in Madison on Monday night.

"My mother always called me plain. She saw this as a flaw to be corrected. She wanted the whole world dressed in dazzling color—even me."

"I never quite complied. I have the fashion sense of Vladimir and Estragon and the panache of my New England nana. When left to my devices, I choose to be unobtrusive. I choose gray. It suits my diffidence and soothes my extroversion. It is the color, rather than the sound, of silence. It sits with monkish, folded hands and asks for nothing. It never shouts. It never pushes.... A color psychology article on Bustle tells me that I fear commitment. 'Grey is emotionless,' it says, 'boring, detached, and indecisive. Those who say their favorite color is grey don’t tend to have any major likes or dislikes.'... Lovers of gray 'lack the passion that comes with loving a real color.' And yet I yearn for it. I fill my drawers with gray brassieres. I dress my bed in sheets and duvets like a day with all the blue drained out of it. The tidiness, the monochrome inspire peace.... As the black-and-white photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said to the color photographer William Eggleston: 'You know, William, color is bullshit.'... Dorothy may tumble, tornadic, into Technicolor, but still she always wishes to go home.... I sometimes drive an hour to the ocean, hoping I will find it thoroughly obscured by fog. I am not a melancholic or a bore, but I want a break from all the rainbow violence in the world...."

From "Ode to Gray" by Meghan Flaherty (in The Paris Review).

You know, William, color is bullshit.

I'm reading Isaac Stanley-Becker in The Washington Post again

I noticed him for the first time yesterday — "In Trump’s right-wing media universe, it was a day like any other." I see "Isaac Stanley-Becker is a reporter based in the U.K. He is completing a doctorate in modern European history at the University of Oxford, where he is a Rhodes Scholar." I'm making an Isaac Stanley-Becker tag.

Today, he's already got 2 short articles, both of which interest me. You'll note the bloggerly panache.

1. "Trump tweets the word ‘Africa’ for first time as president — in defense of whites in South Africa." today:
The alleged plight of white South Africans is a major rallying cry of far-right movements across North America, Europe and Australia. An online petition titled “Genocide of whites in South Africa,” which calls on Trump to allow “white Boers to come to the United States,” has garnered [garnered!] nearly 23,000 signatures.

Daniel Dale, a correspondent for the Toronto Star, observed that Trump’s tweet Wednesday marked the first time he had used the word “Africa” on the social media platform since becoming president — “to express support for white people,” Dale said, “on the recommendation” of white nationalists, whose claims had been amplified by the Fox host. An archive of Trump’s tweets indeed reveals that Wednesday’s post was his first as president that included the word “Africa.”
2. "Beyond ‘You’re So Vain’: A new Carly Simon-Mick Jagger duet is unearthed 46 years later." Oh! I am so tired of 46 years of the subject of who the song that talks about who the song is about is about [sic], but...
The Rolling Stones singer did backing vocals for “You’re So Vain”...  In her memoir, Simon recalled... [Mick] testing out a song, which included the lyrics, “Funny, funny, funny, funny, how love can make you cry.”...

A new duet, never before played in public, was recently discovered on a tape... The lyrics recalled by Simon match [the tape], though the two seem to croon the word “change,” not “cry.”...

In an interview with the magazine in 2016, Simon stoked speculation about the long-lost duet. She sang the line she had put in her book, asking, “Does that sound like any Stones song to you?” The interviewer suggested “Fool to Cry”...

“Maybe, maybe,” Simon said. “We had this little back and forth at the piano for about an hour.” But then Paul and Linda McCartney arrived, she said, and the spontaneous collaboration was over....

In her memoir, she wrote that “for Mick Jagger, all women, including me, were his, by divine right.”
Whatever. "Fool to Cry" is kind of my favorite Rolling Stones song. A great soundtrack for crying, if that's ever on your agenda:

But don't you hate that — when you're having a sublimely artistic and romantic experience and Paul and Linda McCartney arrive?

August 22, 2018

At the Wednesday Night Cafe...

... name your poison.

"President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen will 'under no circumstances' accept a pardon from his former boss, Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis said Wednesday."

Politico reports:
Asked whether his client would seek a pardon from the president, Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis said... "His answer would be no, I do not want a pardon from this man.... Under no circumstances, since he came to the judgment after Mr. Trump's election to the presidency of the United States that his suitability is a serious risk to our country. And certainly after Helsinki, creates serious questions about his loyalty to our country."...

"Michael Cohen knows information that would be of interest to the special counsel, in my opinion, regarding both knowledge about a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy by the Russians and the failure to report that knowledge to the FBI," Davis said. "Donald Trump violated criminal law. He may not be able to be indicted. That's an unclear question, but there's no dispute here. He directed Michael Cohen to do something that was criminal. Michael did it and admitted to it."
There's a little slippage between the quote and the headline. Davis said Cohen would not seek a pardon, not that he wouldn't accept a pardon. But obviously, Cohen, working with Davis, does not have a strategy of pleasing Trump.

"Asia, I love you with all my heart. So glad we met again and I'm so glad your in my life. Jimmy."/"He wrote me this afterwards..."

"... and kept sending me unsolicited nudes all these years up until 2 weeks before the attorneys letter... it wasn't raped (sic) but I was frozen. He was on top of me. After, he told me I had been his sexual fantasy since was 12."

From "ASIA ARGENTO/IN BED WITH 17-YEAR-OLD BOY... In Sexual Encounter" — published in TMZ (with images of the letter and texts) after Argento made the statement "I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett."

AND: Also in the texts: "The horny kid jumped me."

"An up-and-coming baritone singer alleges he was drugged and violently raped in 2010 by two of opera/classical music’s shining stars, David Daniels and Scott Walters."

"Daniels, 52, the most famous countertenor in the world, has been a favorite of the Metropolitan Opera, while his now-husband Walters, 36, is a respected conductor. The couple is so highly regarded that they were married in 2014 by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Samuel Schultz claims that in 2010, the same couple drugged and raped him following a performance in Texas, leaving him unconscious. He claims that he awoke the next afternoon in a strange bed, disoriented, in pain and bleeding from the rectum."

Reports The Daily News.

I'm seeing this satirical MAGA hat...

Not everything in that set of images is "MY ATTORNEY GOT ARRESTED" (i.e., my search term). There's also the sad little man in a MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat. That's from a March 2017 NY Post article, "Here’s what happens when you wear a #MAGA hat in NYC." There's also "MUELLER AIN'T GOIN' AWAY" and "MORONS ARE GOVERNING AMERICA." Then there's the comic. Not sure why that came up, but you can read it here.

"In Trump’s right-wing media universe, it was a day like any other."

Writes Isaac Stanley-Becker at WaPo:
Alongside a Daily Caller story about [Michael Cohen's pleading guilty] were laudatory posts about Trump, from the president’s defense of free speech to his status as “the most feminist president.” TheBlaze gave prominence to Trump’s attacks on ESPN for not “defending our anthem,” foregrounding the president’s grievances with NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence.
Meanwhile, conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh asserted that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III isn’t interested in what Trump’s former attorney has to say....

If [Trump] went online shortly before 4 p.m., the only “BREAKING NEWS” alert he would have seen was the one from Fox about the 24-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico who law enforcement officials say killed Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old college student who disappeared last month.

Alarm over the student’s death dominated the president’s feed... “OUTRAGE!” steamed Laura Ingraham....

Hannity dismissed Tuesday’s news as a bloodthirsty campaign against the president. “The media is once again beside themselves with false reporting, speculation and hysteria,” he said....
The only part of this right-wing media coverage I consumed yesterday was a bit of Fox News, which I did not turn on, but only overheard. As I said yesterday:
On Fox News — "The Five" — there's too much talk about the Iowa murder case, with a suspect who's been in the country illegally, and how this might be what ordinary Americans really care about. I was groaning aloud at this labored effort.
My comments section often seems like part — a very small part — of the right-wing universe, and I got a lot of pushback for criticizing Fox for putting an Iowa murder story at the top of the news on such a big national news day.

Examples of comments: "Well Ann I disagree. I am angry about Mollie Tibbetts murderer, but don’t give a damn about Manafort or Cohen." "I kind of do care about murder more than I care about selectively prosecuted financial crimes. Both are bad -- but dead bodies should perhaps get more of our focus." "Mollie Tibbetts' murder is going to enrage a lot of people. Like me. In 2015, when Kate Steinle was murdered by an illegal alien, no politician said a word until candidate Trump began slamming it, slamming our laws, etc. That started momentum that carried him all the way to the White House. I'm willing to bet that people--like me--would rather have him and his policies in the White House than hear about what dodgy Michael Cohen had to say to buy five years."

IN THE COMMENTS: tim maguire said, "Ms. Althouse herself has highlighted Drudge's front page. Stanley-Becker needs to stick his head outside is protective cocoon once in a while is he doesn't want to look like an idiot while talking about people who aren't him." Yes, Drudge is also "right-wing media" (within the Stanley-Becker world view) and — as I showed you in my above-linked post from yesterday — Drudge looked like this:

AND: A day later, Drudge is still showing Trump in Hell. The red is gone, but "IMPEACHMENT FEARS" have arrived:

"I’m sure ABC would love it if my show appealed to everyone. But I don’t think that world exists anymore. And I’m not comfortable in it."

"I don’t really see any other path. I also think one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a performer is trying to guess what your audience wants. I think you need to do what you think is right and hope that it works out."

Said Jimmy Kimmel, responding to a question about the effect of politics on his ratings, quoted in a Daily Beast interview with the inaccurate title "Jimmy Kimmel Doesn’t Want to ‘Appeal’ to Trump Fans: ‘I Don’t Think That World Exists Anymore.'"

I clicked through based on that headline, which made me feel that Kimmel had either meant that Trump doesn't have fans anymore or that the people who like Trump are just nonpeople as far as he's concerned.  But what he means, as I read the larger context, is that TV has changed, and there are so many choices now that it's no longer the case that a late-night talk show needs to appeal to everyone. That might have been the way TV was done long ago, for example, when Johnny Carson did "The Tonight Show," but these days, taking on the limitations inherent in being likable to everyone isn't worth it.

But Kimmel is concerned about reaching a lot of people, because he explains his willingness to make fun of Trump in terms of the ignorance of the audience:
You don’t want to have to spend three minutes explaining a story to your audience. And if there is anything good about Donald Trump, it’s that people are paying attention to what’s going on in the White House. And you can make jokes about subjects that people might not have been paying attention to when Obama was president or Bush was president. Because he is such a colorful character and there is so much attention put on everything he says and does. So that makes it ideal for comedy. You don’t have to set up the setup. I’ve always felt that my job, even during my radio days, is to talk about the events of the day.
So it's not that he's writing off the Trump fans so much as he's hungry for some material that will actually make people laugh.

And this was interesting:
In 2004, you were going to have Omarosa on.... And the legend is that she thought there was going to be a lie detector test, freaked out and left before her appearance. Is that an accurate description of what happened?

Yes, what happened was, my Uncle Frank‍ lied about something. And I thought it would be funny to give him a fake lie detector test on the air, something that he thought was real. She saw the setup for the lie detector test and decided that we were going to spring it on her, which, if you know anything about taking a polygraph test, that’s not how it works. It takes a long time. There’s no ding and no buzz. It’s a chart that they analyze afterwards. So that was preposterous just to start with. But she stormed out of there and the show was live so we had no guest. I don’t remember what I talked about, I probably just talked about her the whole time. But she was very angry. And I remember thinking it’s better this way. I didn’t want to have her on the show. The woman — there’s clearly something wrong with her. And the fact that Donald Trump hired her is really all you need to know about that guy and his organization.
Ironically, her reaction to the idea of a lie detector test is some evidence that she is a liar. But it's rather weak evidence. For one thing, being asked — as part of the show — to take the test is humiliating. It implicitly accuses her of being a liar. And a nonliar could feel anxious about taking the test and the anxiety could make you feel that you would fail the test.

ADDED: At this point in writing this post, I went looking in my archive for an earlier post explaining a point of evidence, the inference about a person's state of mind produced by the refusal to take a test even where that person is wrong about the test. It was something about "the ordeal of the bier" that I used to teach in Evidence class. And — ha ha — here's the old post, from April 29, 2004, "Omarosa and ... the ordeal of the bier!" I blogged it in the very context of the old Jimmy Kimmel show!

AND: Quoted at the 2004 post:
“The lie-detector test wasn’t even for her,” a spokeswoman for the show told the Scoop. “It was intended for Jimmy’s Uncle Frank [a regular character on the show], but when Omarosa saw it, she just freaked.” Some fellow contestants have accused Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth of lying when she said one of them used the N-word. “We tried and tried to calm her down, but she just kept saying ‘I’m not going on stage with that lie detector test’ then she just walked out.”
First, interesting that the lie in question was about her saying somebody used the N-word. Second, how do we know they aren't lying about how they intended to use the lie detector? Even if they had some routine with Uncle Frank, that would have made lie detecting a subject that might be referred to in other parts of the show, an ongoing theme that Jimmy could tap. Since Omarosa didn't go on the show, we never found out, and the story that it was always only for Uncle Frank cannot be tested. Maybe Jimmy's lying.

"The conservative Roberts majority will no doubt frame future rulings on voting restrictions and gerrymandering as solidly grounded in law and the Constitution."

"And yet it could become increasingly difficult to believe the court is doing law, not politics, if a conservative majority of Republican appointees issued decision after decision that had the effect of helping Republican candidates win elections.... Elections are the only obvious, if indirect, way for the public to express its discontent with a wayward Supreme Court. Maybe a mobilized Democratic Party can somehow overcome all the barriers of Republican entrenchment.... If a new dominant national alliance emerges to the left of the Roberts Court, maybe the justices will find a way to become a part of it. Or the Republicans could remain in power because they make a persuasive case to the voters, not because the court aids in eroding the democratic process...."

From "When the Supreme Court Lurches Right/What happens when the Supreme Court becomes significantly more conservative than the public?" by Emily Bazelon in the NYT.

I have little confidence that my excerpt will be comprehensible to anyone. One key is to understand that there's a theory that the judiciary is really a political branch, and that for all its posing as operating in a completely different mode — interpreting legal texts — it's really tracking democratic preferences. There's a concern that the new majority on the Court will permit redistricting and various voting law that will help Republicans win elections, putting them in control of the overtly political branches of government. And there's an idea that the Court will notice that those supposedly democratic branches are not properly majoritarian anymore and that distortion will motivate the Court — which is covertly political — to step into the role of representing what it knows to be the true majority.

I'm trying to put the argument in blunter language than Bazelon is using. I see that Bazelon is now the Truman Capote fellow for Creative Writing and Law at Yale Law School, which sounds like a fantastic position. But I wonder, what would Truman Capote write?

ADDED: What exactly is "creative writing"? Wikipedia says:
Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature.... Both fictional and non-fictional works fall into this category....
I'm all for jumping outside the bounds of "normal" legal writing, though I don't like the term "creative writing." First, "creative" is way overused in our culture. Everyone's child is so creative, and young people accept low-paying jobs that are portrayed as "creative." Second, if you're writing nonfiction, you shouldn't be "creating" your facts. You want to be creative in what facts you pursue and how you present them, but why invite the confusion? The use of Truman Capote's name in connection with writing about law is also interestingly confusing, since Capote — for all his excellent writing style — was known to have deviated from rigorous truthtelling in his nonfiction work, "In Cold Blood." From Wikipedia:
Writing in Esquire in 1966, Phillip K. Tompkins noted factual discrepancies after he traveled to Kansas and spoke to some of the same people interviewed by Capote... Tompkins concluded:
Capote has, in short, achieved a work of art. He has told exceedingly well a tale of high terror in his own way. But, despite the brilliance of his self-publicizing efforts, he has made both a tactical and a moral error that will hurt him in the short run. By insisting that "every word" of his book is true he has made himself vulnerable to those readers who are prepared to examine seriously such a sweeping claim.
True crime writer Jack Olsen also commented on the fabrications:
"I recognized it as a work of art, but I know fakery when I see it... Capote completely fabricated quotes and whole scenes.... That book did two things. It made true crime an interesting, successful, commercial genre, but it also began the process of tearing it down. I blew the whistle in my own weak way. I'd only published a couple of books at that time – but since it was such a superbly written book, nobody wanted to hear about it."

"'We’re lost,' said Truus Ooms, 81, to her friend Annie Arendsen, 83, as they rode a city bus together."

"'As the driver, you should really know where we are,' Ms. Arendsen told Rudi ten Brink, 63, who sat at the wheel of the bus. But she was joking. The three are dementia patients at a care facility in the eastern Netherlands. Their bus ride — a route on the flat, tree-lined country roads of the Dutch countryside — was a simulation that plays out several times a day on three video screens. It is part of an unorthodox approach to dementia treatment that doctors and caregivers across the Netherlands have been pioneering: harnessing the power of relaxation, childhood memories, sensory aids, soothing music, family structure and other tools to heal, calm and nurture the residents, rather than relying on the old prescription of bed rest, medication and, in some cases, physical restraints."

From "Fighting Dementia With Memories of Childhood and Happy Times" (NYT). Lots of interesting photographs at the link. Really worth reading if you're dealing with dementia or think some day you will.

August 21, 2018

At the Late Night Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

Trump in Hell.

NYT: "Michael Cohen Says He Paid Off Women Who Claimed Affairs at Trump’s Direction."
Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to campaign finance and other charges. He made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic actress “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Mr. Trump, to secure her silence about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payment was “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.

Mr. Cohen also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion and bank fraud, bringing to a close a monthslong investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors who examined his personal business dealings and his role in helping to arrange financial deals with women connected to Mr. Trump.
NYT: "Paul Manafort Guilty of 8 Charges in Fraud Trial."

Trump made a short statement as he was getting off the plane in West Virginia (where he'll have a rally soon). Trump repeatedly expressed empathy for Manafort and stressed that it had nothing to do with Russian collusion, and — it was quite noticeable — didn't mention Cohen at all.

On Fox News — "The Five" — there's too much talk about the Iowa murder case, with a suspect who's been in the country illegally, and how this might be what ordinary Americans really care about. I was groaning aloud at this labored effort.

"Like so many young men in so many foxholes before him, Hogg discovered in himself a powerful drive not to leave this Earth without making a mark. "

"'We really only remember a few hundred people, if that many, out of the billions that have ever lived,' he told me at his house in a gated community in Parkland, ten days after the shooting. 'Is that what I was destined to become?'... 'It’s so funny,' says Delaney Tarr, Hogg’s good friend and a founding member of the #NeverAgain crew. 'The way David tweets is legitimately the way he is in person. If he has an opinion, he’s not going to silence it for a moment.' Unlike many of his peers, Hogg appears not to care much what people think about him. He’s been bullied before: 'I’m easy to pick on because I’m a string bean,' he says. 'I’ve had this shit said about me my entire life' — not death threats, but 'twig arms and shit like that. I don’t care.'... [H]e is dyslexic. He didn’t learn to read until the fourth grade and recalls teachers 'telling my parents I would amount to nothing, like I was some kind of broken toy.' He found a way to process their skepticism. 'They taught me not to give a shit about what other people think — all that matters is what you think.'... At 16, Hogg started waking at 3 a.m. to meditate, not with a guru or through an app but following the tenets of Metta meditation. 'I sat there in my room very creepily in the dark,' he says. 'I would hold on to this rock that I got in California the last time I was out there, when I was hiking with my best friend. You could tell it used to be really rough, but because it was in the ocean so much it was really smooth and soft. It fit perfectly in the palm of my hand, and then I would just hold that and try to focus. It’s really focusing on loving anyone, including those you hate.'"

From "David Hogg, After Parkland Furious and unflinching, an NRA enemy, an accused “crisis actor,” and a high-school grad trying to figure out what’s next" (New York Magazine).

"But, in spite of what marketing initiatives like cocktail parties and a satellite design studio may suggest, he would be the first to say that the Birkenstock is beyond fashion."

"'It’s less painting, it’s less color,' he tells me at one point, 'but it’s more emotion.' I burst out laughing. 'So you’re saying Karl Birkenstock, bitter or not, is right? That it’s not about design?' Reichert smiles and then says with care (or for effect; I can’t tell), 'There’s always a dwarf in the mountain having the biggest diamond. It’s not the nice prince. You need the nice prince to get the diamond out of the mountain and treat it right. But the ugly, mean dwarf in the mountain — he owns the diamond.'"

So ends "The Dwarf, the Prince, and the Diamond in the Mountain/An unlikely fable, in which Birkenstocks become cool and double sales overnight" (New York Magazine)(an article with many more photographs of the making of Birkenstocks than you could possibly imagine).

"He was drafted into the Army, not always a congenial place for men who like curlicues and twists."

"Seemingly within minutes, he writes, 'I was the star of the camouflage maneuvers,' his helmet covered with a 'dazzling garden of flowers and grass.' When forced to march for hours, he pretended to be holding not a rifle but a bouquet of ostrich feathers. A general had him give classes to the officers’ wives in hat making... There is much to learn in this memoir about hat making."

From "Bill Cunningham, Style Maven, Leaves Behind a Memoir and It’s ‘a Real Dilly’" (NYT), a review of "Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs."

Military... millinery...

"Do Men Enter Bathtubs on Hands and Knees So Their Balls Hit the Water Last?"

That is the question of the day, I'm telling you. And the discussion — of how the question came up and how to answer it — is thoroughly delightful. With stick-figure drawings. Text and drawings by Kelly Conaboy (in New York Magazine). Excerpt:
A man named John said, “I didn’t know there was a plethora of bath entry methods. I put my feet in, swoosh the water around a bit so it’s not too hot in one spot, and then plonk my butt down on the tub.” Has he ever heard of the hands and knees method? “No.”

A man named Eric said, “I like to shower first then after a few mins plug the drain so it starts to fill up that way the water does not get gross and filled with pee. Once the water is at a good level sliding down the back wall in to the tub like I just got shot in a movie is the best way to get in to the actual tub, it’s fun....”

When asked if he’s ever heard of the hands and knees method, Eric offered a bit of startling insight. “Not that I recall. Some sort of crab-like walk from gym class is the only other method of entry I ever remember using but I have only ever had shower/bathtub combos as an adult so hard to say if a full-sized free-standing bath would change my approach.”

Some sort of crab-like walk from gym class? Some sort of crab-like walk from gym class??! Like this? [Drawing omitted.]

"[Maryanne] Wolf resolved to allot a set period every day to reread a novel she had loved as a young woman, Hermann Hesse’s Magister Ludi."

"It was exactly the sort of demanding text she’d once reveled in. But now she discovered to her dismay that she could not bear it. 'I hated the book,' she writes. 'I hated the whole so-called experiment [of testing whether she'd lost the ability to read deeply].' She had to force herself to wrangle the novel’s 'unnecessarily difficult words and sentences whose snakelike constructions obfuscated, rather than illuminated, meaning for me.' The narrative action struck her as intolerably slow. She had, she concluded, 'changed in ways I would never have predicted. I now read on the surface and very quickly; in fact, I read too fast to comprehend deeper levels, which forced me constantly to go back and reread the same sentence over and over with increasing frustration.' She had lost the 'cognitive patience' that once sustained her in reading such books. She blamed the internet."

From "Just Read the Book Already/Digital culture doesn’t have to make you a shallow reader. But you have to do something about it." (Slate).

Not the usual.


The big rainstorm "massively flooded" the Whole Foods on University Avenue, or so I was told by the people who said they were store employees, as I stared at the shopping carts full of sodden merchandise. The store was closed and will be closed for days, they said.

I circled around to try to get back home, avoiding left turns on University Avenue, where all the traffic lights were set on blinking red. I took a back road and then turned north onto Shorewood Boulevard where it crosses the railroad tracks. On either side of the tracks, the entire foundation under the rails had been washed away, so that sagging (though not broken) track hung over empty space.

Much worse: "The body of the man swept away by floodwaters Monday night has been found in a retention pond on the West Side," the Wisconsin State Journal reports.

Making the urethra invisible — it's so offensive! They're revealing that holes not usable by penises are nothing.

"Healthline says, using the medical term ‘vagina’ is not gender-inclusive language, uses ‘front hole’ instead. 'It's imperative for safe sex guides to become more inclusive of LGBTQIA and nonbinary people,' the guide states."

An anti-feminist outrage.

For reference: "I Bet You'd Like To Know What Those Holes In The Sides Of Buicks Are Actually Called."

"Get out!"

Via "Watch as ex-CIA analyst falls victim to Trump Derangement Syndrome, goes berserk on CNN" (American Thinker).

I see "get out" as the iconic line in the movie "Get out"...

... so it's an especially bad line for a white man flying into a rage against a black man.

OOH: Trump tweeted about this:

AND: I think you can tell by the degree of disruption in Mudd's mood how much money is at stake.

"Being burned alive was one of the worst things you can imagine. It’s my fault. I can’t say nothing else besides it was a dumb idea."

Said Tamiyah Landers, quoted in "She ‘looked like a fireball’: Internet ‘fire challenge’ leaves 12-year-old Detroit girl severely burned" (WaPo).
About 10 to 15 minutes after settling into bed with her fiance, [Brandi] Owens heard a loud pop.... Seconds later, Owens’s 12-year-old daughter, Timiyah Landers, came tearing down the hallway, engulfed in flames from her knees to her hair. She “looked like a fireball,” Owens said. “She was yelling, ‘Help me.’ ”

Owens’s fiance, Marquell Sholar... doused the teen in cold water, Owens grabbed at her daughter’s flaming clothes with her bare hands, ripping them off. “I was reaching through the fire,” Owens said, adding that she didn’t even realize she had burned her hands. “It was like a reflex. . . . I didn’t even feel the fire, I was just saving my daughter.”...

It was the outcome of attempting a viral Internet dare known as the “fire challenge,” which usually involves pouring rubbing alcohol on your body, setting yourself on fire and filming it all.....

Most rain ever in a single day, here in my county, Dane (and it's still raining).

"The National Weather Service earlier said it had reports that 11 to 13 inches had fallen in some spots in western Dane County," the Wisconsin State Journal reports. Lots of people driving into flooded roadways:
Local first responders were called to dozens of water rescues from people trapped in vehicles overnight.... The Madison Fire Department had earlier Monday night said all water rescues had been successful, but told drivers to “turn around, don’t drown!”

“Madison fire was going from one spot to another to another,” said J. McLellan, spokesman for Dane County Emergency Management, about the calls for vehicles stuck in water, adding that it was the same for Dane County Sheriff’s deputies....

Madonna's tribute to Aretha Franklin is deemed too Madonna-focused.

You be the judge. Here's the full transcript, from "'Beyond disrespectful': At [the MTV Video Music Awards], Madonna gets backlash after bizarre Aretha Franklin tribute" (WaPo):
Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life. I left Detroit when I was 18. $35 in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer.

After years of struggling and being broke, I decided to go to auditions for musical theater. I heard the pay was better. I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer, but I went for it. I got cut, and rejected from every audition. Not tall enough. Not blends-in enough, not 12-octave range enough, not pretty enough, not enough, enough.

And then, one day, a French disco sensation was looking for back-up singers and dancers for his world tour. I thought, “Why not?” The worst that can happen is I could go back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third floor walk-up that was also a crack house.

So I showed up for the audition, and two very large French record producers sat in the empty theater, daring me to be amazing. The dance audition went well. Then they asked if I had sheet music and a song prepared. I panicked. I had overlooked this important part of the audition process. I had to think fast. My next meal was on the line.

Fortunately, one of my favorite albums was “Lady Soul” by Aretha Franklin. I blurted out, “You Make Me Feel.” Silence. “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” Two French guys nodded at me. I said, “You know, by Aretha Franklin.” Again, “Mmmhmm.” They looked over at the pianist. He shook his head. “I don’t need sheet music,” I said, “I know every word. I know the song by heart, I will sing it a cappella.”

I could see that they did not take me seriously. And why should they? Some skinny a– white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers that ever lived? A cappella? I said, “Bitch, I’m Madonna.”

No, I didn’t. I didn’t say that. Cause I wasn’t Madonna yet. I don’t know who I was. I don’t know what I said. I don’t know what came over me. I walked to the edge of the pitch black stage and I started singing.

When I was finished and drenched in nerve sweat. Y’all know what this is, right, nerve sweat? They said, “We will call you one day, and maybe soon.”

So weeks went by and no phone call. Finally, the phone rang, and it was one of the producers, saying, (French accent) “We don’t think you are right for this job.” I’m like, “Why are you calling me?” He replied, “We think you have great potentials. You are rough for the edges but there is good rawness. We want to bring you to Paris and make you a star.”

We will put you in a studio . . . it sounded good, and I wanted to live in Paris and also I wanted to eat some food. So, that was the beginning of my journey as a singer. I left for Paris.

But I came back a few months later, because I had not earned the luxury life I was living. It felt wrong. They were good people. But I wanted to write my own songs and be a musician, not a puppet. I needed to go back home and learn to play guitar, and that is exactly what I did. And the rest is history.

So, you are probably all wondering why I am telling you this story. There is a connection. Because none of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul. She led me to where I am today. And I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight, in this room tonight. And I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Long live the queen.
But it continues! And here's where you know she intended disrespect:
Another anecdote I would like to share: In 1984, this is where the first VMAs were, in this very building. I performed at this show. I sang “Like a Virgin” at the top of a cake. On the way down, I lost a shoe, and then I was rolling on the floor. I tried to make it look like it was part of the choreography, looking for the missing stiletto. And my dress flew up and my butt was exposed, and oh my God, quelle horreur. After the show, my manager said my career was over. LOL.

So I would now like to present the nominees for the video of the year.
I can only think that Madonna has a long history of shaking things up at the VMAs and, like she says, "Bitch, I'm Madonna." She's the ultimate diva, and if you ask her to give a tribute to the ultimate diva, you get what you asked for. She made it through the wilderness...

August 20, 2018

At the Hi-Ho Café...


... the writing is on the table.

"Haji Gora Haji talks to ghosts. At nearly 85, he’s one of Zanzibar’s most revered elders, and the archipelago’s unofficial poet laureate."

"He spends his mornings in a bed draped with mosquito nets, his mind wandering between the real world of his small, sun-baked room in Bububu, a fishing village five miles north of Zanzibar’s capital city, and the imagined world of the dead. 'My father has returned to a state of childhood, as it’s written in the Koran,' says his son.... 'It’s our duty to care for him and make sure [he] is remembered.'... Despite his many achievements, Haji Gora lives in poverty and virtual isolation.... He often refers to imaginary meetings with scholars and publishers. It seems he wants to get back to the business of poetry, his enduring love, but is waylaid on this threshold, a man between two worlds."

From "Between Worlds/A family struggles to save the work of Zanzibar’s greatest poet" (Poetry Foundation).

"What is perhaps most egregious, is the timing, which suggests that at the very same time Argento was working on her own secret settlement for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor..."

"... she was positioning herself at the forefront of those condemning Mr. Weinstein, despite the fact that her sexual relationship with Mr. Weinstein was between two consenting adults which lasted for more than four years... The sheer duplicity of her conduct is quite extraordinary and should demonstrate to everyone how poorly the allegations against Mr. Weinstein were actually vetted and accordingly, cause all of us to pause and allow due process to prevail, not condemnation by fundamental dishonesty."

Said Harvey Weinstein's lawyer, quoted in "Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer slams Asia Argento’s ‘stunning level of hypocrisy’" (NY Post).

"Oh brother, it will be great when reunification happens. Let reunification happen, and let’s live together for even just one minute before we die."

Said Kim Soon Ok, 81, who was able to spend 11 hours with her brother Kim Byung-oh, 88, after the two were selected as part of a reunification of 90 families who had been separated in the Korean War nearly seven decades ago. She is quoted in "Tears, hugs, arguments as Korean families reunite seven decades after division" (WaPo).

"Asia Argento, a #MeToo Leader, Made a Deal With Her Own Accuser"

The NYT reports.
The Italian actress and director Asia Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement. Her boyfriend, the culinary television star Anthony Bourdain, eagerly joined the fight.

But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18....

The documents, which were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party, include a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of the two lying in bed. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett, who is now 22, gave the photograph and its copyright to Ms. Argento, now 42. Three people familiar with the case said the documents were authentic.
Bennett was a child actor, and he had played Argento's son in a movie.

Ms. Argento, who is divorced and has two children, was both a mentor and a mother figure to Mr. Bennett, the document says, and the two were intermittently in contact as he grew up. “Jimmy’s impression of this situation was that a mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together,” [Bennett's lawyer] wrote....

The script, based on a book by the pseudonymous writer JT LeRoy, depicts the grim relationship between a drug-addicted prostitute played by Ms. Argento and her son, played by Mr. Bennett and two other young actors. Ms. Argento’s character dresses her son as a girl to lure men, and the boy is ultimately raped.

In interviews and subsequent social media posts between the two over the years, they referred to each other as mother and son.

On May 9, 2013, the day they met for a reunion in her room at a Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif., she posted on Instagram: “Waiting for my long lost son my love @jimmymbennett in trepidation #marinadelrey smoking cigarettes like there was no next week.”
What depths of evil. I think it was child abuse just to use the boy in a movie with that story.

Facebook "mistakenly removed" videos from Prager University’s Facebook page and says it's "continuing to look into what happened."

"We mistakenly removed these videos and have restored them because they don't break our standards. This will reverse any reduction in content distribution you’ve experienced. We’re very sorry and are continuing to look into what happened with your Page."

That's the Facebook tweet, reported at "Facebook Apologizes for Removing Conservative Site’s Posts" (Mediate).

I'm fascinated by the phrase "continuing to look into what happened." I got this link from my son John (at Facebook, a public post), where I wrote:
"continuing to look into" doesn't mean they have no idea what happened and I think (without more) kind of admits they do know but realize they need to look more deeply into what they are doing because it's not working. That's great, though, because it shows at least that the victims of censorship can make enough noise and create enough pressure to force Facebook to consider behaving better.

F s a s y a o f b f o t c, a n n, c i L, a d t t p t a m a c e. N w a e i a g c w, t w t n, o a n s c a s d, c l e...

"How to Memorize Verbatim Text."

I'm reading about this subject because I've long been interested in paraphrasing, and, writing the previous post, I encountered one of those "quotes" that are virtually always remembered in paraphrase form. You know, like "Play it again, Sam" (For "Play it, Sam"). Why do we do that? Does it happen when there's something off about the verbatim quote, and we're really fixing it, making it what it would be if we were writing the screenplay and expecting an actor to say it?

The misremembered quote I ran into this morning is "Why can't I just eat my waffle?" I can tell you for a fact, based on watching the video about 25 times just now, that the verbatim quote is: "I was wondering why it is that, like, I can't just eat my waffle. Just gonna eat my waffle right now."

Why did I watch 25 times? Because I found myself forgetting the word order almost as soon as I heard it even when I was trying to get it verbatim. It was incredibly hard to remember exactly where Obama said "like." Also, the first 3 words are garbled... because he is literally eating the waffle. That's why the word "just" is so important. He's not wondering why he can't eat his waffle. He is eating his waffle. He wants to eat his waffle without having to do something else at the same time.

The difficulty of discerning "I was wondering" might cause listeners to begin the sentence with "why it is that," which sounds odd. I myself, trying to get a verbatim quote, kept switching to "why is it that." There seems to be a strong instinct to switch words into a more natural order, which might say a lot about how language develops and how babies learn to speak in a way that follows established rules (and long before they have any awareness that there are rules that many adults believe in and take pains to enforce).

So if you're looking to memorize verbatim text, it will be easier, I think, if the text you choose follows the natural pattern of speech. And — to continue in the same line of thinking — if you find a particular text strangely hard to memorize, you might want to think about why it was put in that form. Is the speaker/writer hiding something or trying to affect an elevated style? Is there something humorous? Something meant to exclude less intelligent listeners? What's going on?

Did you understand the post title? You will if you read the linked article... the linked... link... ... linc...

That's a technique for memorization. I remember reading, long ago, about papers left by an old woman who couldn't talk and who was assumed to have lost her language ability. It was considered sad that her notes looked like this: o f w a i h h b t n t k c t w b d o e a i i i h....

But then it was understood, and they realized what they were seeing and felt overwhelmed by their failure to understand her.

WaPo provides "Perspective/Barack Obama’s summer reading list is everything we need right now."

I've heard about the "blue wave." This seems to have us lolling about on the beach. What does it mean to say "Barack Obama’s summer reading list is everything we need right now"? I hear: Remember the good old days? Wasn't Barack Obama great? It's okay to disengage from all the craziness of today and lean back and read some books.

But let's see what the books are. Maybe they're all about riling us up about today. Oh. Wait. There's this introductory material from WaPo.
It’s the classiest, most passive-aggressive move Barack Obama could make: He posted a list of books he’s been reading on ­Facebook...
The WaPo book editor (Ron Charles) is trying to deflect the message I heard. He's seeing AGGRESSION! in Obama's amiable communication. Classy aggression.
Obama didn’t rage against his enemies or attack the pillars of our democracy. He didn’t call anybody a “dog.” He didn’t brag about his own bestsellers — or the size of his book-reading hands.

Instead, he just presented a small window into the mind of a man who appreciates how books can alter the pace of our lives and illuminate the world.

“One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit,” Obama wrote, “whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon.”

For a nation showered by the sputtering rage of his replacement, Obama’s implicit reminder of how incurious and aliterate the Oval Office has become is almost cruel.
La la la. Isn't he wonderful? And isn't his wonderfulness all we really need to make the argument that Trump is intolerably horrible?

Credit to Ron Charles for deploying the word "aliterate." It's different from "illiterate." It means "unwilling to read, although able to do so; disinclined to read" (OED).

ADDED: This post made me think of Obama and the waffle. Remember? "I was wondering why it is that, like, I can't just eat my waffle. Just gonna eat my waffle right now." (By the way, have you ever noticed that the waffle quote is virtually always remembered in paraphrase form, as "Why can't I just eat my waffle?" Go ahead, Google the verbatim quote, which I've provided, and you'll get lots of hits, all substituting the paraphrase.)

ALSO: Althouse on Facebook (but don't try to friend me)(click to enlarge):

I'll link to this in case you want to talk about it, but I'm not in the mood to have my agenda set.

"Trump Lawyers’ Sudden Realization: They Don’t Know What Don McGahn Told Mueller’s Team" (NYT).

That expands on this, published by the NYT on Friday (and not yet blogged by me), "White House Counsel, Don McGahn, Has Cooperated Extensively in Mueller Inquiry."

And the new article dredges up something from last fall:
Last fall, Mr. McGahn believed that he was being set up to be blamed for any wrongdoing by the president in part because of an article published in The Times in September, which described a conversation that a reporter had overheard between Mr. Dowd and Mr. Cobb.

In the conversation — which occurred over lunch at a table on the sidewalk outside the Washington steakhouse B.L.T. — Mr. Cobb discussed the White House’s production of documents to Mr. Mueller’s office. Mr. Cobb talked about how Mr. McGahn was opposed to cooperation and had documents locked in his safe.
Does the Times ever consider that Dowd and Cobb intended to be overheard? They were speaking loudly, next to a NYT reporter.

I don't like being nudged to get excited about this — sudden realization, etc. etc. Is something specific and important happening here or is the NYT serving its own interests? Without looking more deeply into this, I'm inclined to assume McGahn did what he was asked to do and operated within his role as White House Counsel of protecting the institution of the presidency. That's different from Trump's own lawyers, who focus on this particular problem. And the longterm interest of the presidency is in preserving confidentiality and executive privilege. Trump with his lawyers wanted to cooperate with Mueller (or at least appear to be doing so unless and until Mueller goes too far). What is the sudden crisis?

And, yes, I know that Trump's lawyer Giuliani said "Truth isn’t truth." It's a fantastic quote for Trump haters to use to the hilt, but I'm not getting excited about it. In context:
“It’s somebody’s version of the truth, not the truth,” Mr. Giuliani said of any statements by the president in such an interview.

“Truth is truth,” the show’s host, Chuck Todd, answered.

“No, it isn’t truth,” Mr. Giuliani replied. “Truth isn’t truth.”
Giuliani was obviously repeating his point that it's "somebody's version of the truth" and not the truth. He's not saying truth isn't truth or there is no truth. He's saying what Chuck Todd called "truth" isn't truth.

ADDED: At Facebook, my son John links to "Giuliani walks back 'truth isn't truth' comment" (Politico) and I say:
Politico spins by saying he's walking it back. If you understood the line they way I did (see above), it's not a walk-back but a confirmation. What Giuliani said was, "My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic 'he said,she said' puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn’t." I understood it that way all along. No walk back. Just more spin from the anti-Trump press.
Credit to Politico for choosing a great photo of Giuliani (in support of its spin).

"It's The Freeze!"

Said Meade, watching this:

If you don't know who The Freeze is: "Big chill: The Freeze blazes path to stardom/Braves' in-game attraction is hit with MLB fans, players." Great video here: